Super Positive Coping Mummy

Obvious statement alert: Deployment with children is very different to deployment when it’s just you to think about.

I mean, there’s the stuff  you kind of know you’re going to have to do; like explaining where mummy/daddy is, doing countdowns with sweets and sticker charts et al but what about the other stuff?

The stuff pre-children-navy-wife-olive had no idea about whatsoever.

Before starting a family I could (and did) wear pjs for a whole weekend, eat my weight in ice cream and have mad nights out with friends to numb the pain. I could cry at leisure and put on destinys child full blast whilst painting my toenails at 11pm at night because it made me feel better.

Now I have to be Super Positive Coping Mummy. SPC Mummy puts on a brave front, answers any and all heartbreaking “where’s daddy?” Type questions with a smile and a biscuit. SPC Mummy doesn’t drink (much) lovely lovely wine the night daddy goes because no matter what SPC Mummy is available 24/7 to attended to all and any small people needs. Including needing jam on toast at 5 freaking AM. SPC Mummy doesn’t get to watch soppy films all morning huddled under the duvet with chocolate, SPC Mummy is carrying on with going to the park, walking the dog and remembering to take carrier bags with her to Lidl.

Pre children when Popeye rang I was able to (literally) drop everything, hurdle the dog and drop roll over the coffee table to get to the phone.

Post children- I have missed the phone ringing due to bathtimes, being stuck under a sleeping newborn who has finally gone to sleep with the phone just out of reach, not to mention the ringtone obliterator that is sodding tots n tunes. Ten or so toddlers “singing” wind the bloody bobbin up is unsurprisingly incompatible with hearing Popeyes personalised “captain Pugwash” ringtone.

And if by some strange fluke of chance you actually get to answer the phone you now have to share those precious few minutes with a small person covered in jam that just wants to talk about Peppa Pig/ an interesting stone they found/ how mummy won’t give her another chocolate egg (side note: my daughter is still devastated Easter is over. Several months later she still blames me).

I never even considered having to explain to my toddler that every single boat does not have daddy on it. I never thought for a second that I would have to compare our family unit to that of Danny Dog from (of course) that Pig cartoon. Because Danny’s daddy goes away then comes back and decides to never leave again. So thank you for that conversation Peppa. Because my daughters daddy isn’t coming home for a long long time and then will have to go away again. And again. Unlike Mr Dog.

During bedtimes (when no one will just go the heck to sleep) I’ve daydreamed about a cartoon where there is an actual military family portrayed, showing our strength and resilience. Demonstrating the sacrifices we make in every day situations and it’s no biggie. How we switch from being a parenting team to the practical equivalent of single parents in the blink of an eye.

SPC Mummy probably should have her own TV show. Or at least a cape.

If it were a cartoon the most important thing it could  give my daughters is an example of how our military family is a normal family.

Even if they do have jam smeared on their faces and stones in their pockets, this is their normal and now a deployment with children has become my normal too.

SPC Mummy- away!!!!

*swirls around in her cape and flies off to solve another deployment related toddler question*

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The hype of Skype.

Ahh Skype! I heard so many wonderous tales from other navy wives about you. How seeing their Sailor was amazing. And I have suffered the aghast looks and “oh Olive you haven’t ever Skyped? How do you cope? Why not? you simply must! it’s the best!”

So this deployment, mostly so Popeye could see his Daughter, Sweet Pea, (who is turning into a right chunker by the way, SO cuuuuuute!) we attempted to get with the decade and Skype.

so, being the super modern Royal Navy couple that we are, we downloaded, (during paternity leave), we practised, then when he was back on deployment and alongside, we text each other, to arrange a time, Popeye scouted bars in Dubai with free wifi (a real chore I’m sure!) to find a place to do it.

I actually made sure I had makeup on! My top only had one bit of sick on it! I had tidied the living room! I had brushed my hair! Sweet Pea was wearing her best baby outfit! The clock ticked to the allotted time, adrenaline and excitement coursing in my veins, after two months we get to see each other!!!!

Aaaaaaaaaand…….nothing. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Cue desperate texts costing a squillion pounds each- “I’m doing everything right here Popeye, it must be you, at your end”.

“No Olive, it’s not my end, it must be you”

“No Popeye, I must disagree, darling, surely it is you who is technologically challenged, not I”.

“Nope it’s you, I can’t be bothered now”.

“For God sake Popeye keep trying or I will LOSE it. It has taken me HOURS to get ready for this flipping Skype call!!!!”

Eventually… it connects.

Relief and anticipation flood my body as I peer into the iPad screen.

And I can see him! But wait…he’s pixilated like some Mine Craft character!

And his movements are all lagged and robotic.

Aaaaaand I can only hear every other word.

Oh.

Is this what everyone’s been raving about?

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After about fifteen minutes of Minecraft Robo Hubby making vowel sounds like a monkey, and me shouting “I can’t hear you, what?” Whilst trying to hold the (now screaming) baby up for him to look at, I am actually relieved when the connection cuts out for the last time and we go back to old fashioned texting.

After all that effort I am exhausted, Sweet Pea is freaking out about everything and Popeye is pissed off at the whole exercise.

Skype I’m sure is amazing when you’ve got a stellar connection and angel child and all the time in the world. However when one half of the conversation is either broken and disjointed, or has the background noise of the Queen Vic, it’s not the magical wonderous experience I was expecting!!!

Parcel sending: what does your parcel say about you?

During this deployment my parcel skills have taken a nosedive. I used to be soooooo good at sending parcels out. I diligently sent one a week, each item loving picked to cater to Popeyes fluctuating needs throughout our time apart. Hours would be spent writing a letter of epic proportions, with each line thought about and delivered tenderly and with very neat handwriting.

I would go into specific shops to find a DVD or game that he had requested, I would go to the sweet shop in search of his favourite sweets (fizzy raspberry balls), I would in short trek up and down the high street, my heart fluttering with excitement at the thought of his delight as he opened each carefully and lovely packed bundle.

Fast forward a few years, and add a baby into the mix and the standard has dropped…I have dubbed myself “the New Mum” parcel sender:

the New Mum
Bang out a garbled letter in which my handwriting looks like a spider has died a slow death and crawled across the page, a letter that’s contents is basically a minute by minute account of my day, and therefore exactly the same as the email I’ve just sent.

Now I’ve got sweet pea it’s a case of- grab a few bags of 3 for 2 from the confectionary aisle of tescos as quickly as possible. Cram as many sweets into the box as I can under the 2kg limit (or I have to pay and that is sooo not happening). If it’s over the limit, remove heaviest sweets and eat them myself, then at some point during the next week or two whack it into the post office en route to the next supermarket trip or doctors appointment or coffee morning. There are no more DVDs, no more scented pillowcases, no more “open when you feel… Letters” it’s literally a box of a random collection of aisle 6’s choicest picks and a note with a coffee ring in the corner. I think of my parcels as a bit of a failure on my part, especially when I consider how much effort I used to put in (see “The Romantic” and “The Artist”, below). But I haven’t got enough time on my hands to worry about it.

This got me thinking about how these parcels reflect us, those packing them. Whether we are girlfriends doing our first deployment, a heart broken fiancé counting down to her wedding, a rushed off her feet wife and mother, or a mum wanting to scoop up her son or daughter from miles away but not being able to. I’ve come up with some categories:

The romantic
(Basically how I was,)
So, it’s probably their first deployment. Each box is lovingly packed with items that have been given a lot of thought. A romantic letter with rude undertones. Possibly a stocking with a note “come find the other one when you’re home” etc. definitely stuff that smells of their perfume. Letter sealed with a lipstick kiss and a sigh. Very excited about when their sailor receives it. Sees the parcel as a physical embodiment of their love. Box weighs more than 2kg, but she doesn’t care as she is desperate to send it. Makes a special trip into town to ceremoniously post it.

The pragmatist
Has been given a list by her sailor. Writes a time and date on the calendar when a trip into town is manageable and goes in and buys said items. No more, no less. May or may not call into the post office to buy her new tax disk at the same time. The letter written explains why certain brands were selected in favour of others, a short account of how life is at home is given, with a reminder to provide certain information, such as national insurance number, so that she can register them to vote/complete census form/update SORN information before homecoming.Box weighs exactly 2kg after wrapping.
Sees the box as a reflection of how well she is coping. Poster feels a sense of accomplishment and personal pride when sending it. Posts it during her lunch break as she’s remembered to take it with her in the car that morning.

The Old Timer
Needs no list. Due to doing so many deployments psychically knows when her sailor needs a parcel and exactly what her sailor needs. This will change depending on which hemisphere he is in. She knows how long each parcel will take to arrive, give or take 3 days, no matter where they are in the world. Parcel is packed with a balance of things he literally needs, such as shower gel, moisturiser etc, and an even mix of moral boosting sweets and crisps. There are letters from her and the sailors best friends and family members. She has a photo bucket account set up and automatically includes recent photos and updates of important family events. Box weighs as much as it needs to and is sent when it is ready, which is exactly at the right time. Sees the box as something she does when her sailor is deployed, and thinks no more of it.

The joker
Sends an empty box.

The Angel
Puts other navy wives to shame by sending several boxes at a time. Each one is a mix of practical and romantic. They don’t worry about when they send them as they constantly send them. Is on first name terms with the post office staff. Has a roll of customs labels at home. Will send novelty items as needed for functions on the ship, such as a Neptune costume for the crossing the line ceremony. And are therefore practical and fun. Usually includes home made jam or chutney. Letters are newsy, breezy and different every time. Has no need for scales as can tell by holding each box if it is over the 2kg limit. Thinks of her parcel as a little cuboid of home.

The Artist
Has a lot of free time. Picks a theme and runs with it. Will spend a LOT of money on items just to fit the theme. Themes such as holidays (Christmas/Halloween) and interests (TV shows/ hobbies) are common. Usually sends a mug or key ring that fits the theme. Box is sent in a rush hoping it’ll get there on time. Items sent are impractical, novelty and flamboyant. The Artist needs to then send a second parcel shortly of things their sailor actually needs. They feel embarrassed when writing the customs label and have no idea of the weight until they get to the post office, which, due to their insurmountable excitement, they make a special trip to go to. Usually five minutes before it shuts. This parcel is posted the day the parcel force man delivers the final item purchased through Amazon one click. Thinks of her parcel as a much a project to keep her busy, cheerful and focused as it is to him him entertained and happy.

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So, which parcel sender are you? Do you jump between the categories? I’ve probably left half out, but rest assured, no matter what kind of parcel sender you are, you are pretty awesome simply because you are sending a parcel.

Hope that raised a smile, and hope those countdowns are zooming by. Now off for coffee via the nearest Royal Mail depot.

Muchos love,
Olive
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